I was walking through a mall recently and there was a radio station doing a remote. The disc jockey was in the corner of this store, sitting in front of a microphone, the station’s call letters on a big sign above his head. All of the music, commercials, everything else was back at the station. So it was just this poor schmoe, pleading for listeners to stop on by. Of course, that’s when he was on the air. Most of the time he was not. A song or spot or promo was playing so it was just a poor schmoe sitting alone under a sign. It’s like when you give your kid a “time out”. A few shoppers crossed back and forth but no one paid attention. I passed by and a arctic breeze went right up my sphincter.
In an ideal world remotes would lure more people into the store (for
which the station receives a healthy fee up front). It’s kinda like
when Jiffy Lube has a grand opening and schedules Greasy the Clown to
make a guest appearance so bring all the kids.
Also, the broadcast is supposed to sound more fun to the listeners
because it’s unpredictable, the D.J. can interview folks who are there,
it’s a big party.
Most of the time no one shows up and the ones who do don’t give a shit.
The disc-jockey (thinking it’s a rare chance to be a big celebrity)
is pretty much reduced to that crazy guy with a pinwheel hat who talks
to himself on the subway.
I’ve gotten roped into a number of these remotes during my checkered
radio career. Frequently (i.e. 90% of the time) the equipment doesn’t
work, it sounds awful, there’s loud feedback, headphones that don’t
work, I never know when my mic is actually on so over songs you hear me
saying, “Hello? Is this crap working?” “When I get back to the
station I’m going to kill Lenny for setting this damn thing up.”
Weather is occasionally an issue. I’ve done outdoor remotes in the
rain (“If you’re coming folks would one of you please bring an
umbrella?”), the heat, and mostly the wind. All of my commercial copy
gets blown onto a freeway.
Usually I’ll have prizes to give away. But they’re always weenie, and I
sound so pathetic begging people to drive twenty miles to get free
station bumper stickers and kitchen magnets.
The few stragglers that do stop by usually say, “Who are you again?” or
tell me how much they hate me or my station. And then they still ask
for one of the prizes. “You want this fucking kitchen magnet? Bend
over. How about a station ballpoint pen? Let me give you one of
I’ve done them in hardware stores, tuxedo rental shops, record stores, a
Denny’s, and an exclusive country club. That was fun, telling the
thirty-five people in Los Angeles who were even eligible to come on by.
One time when the Dodgers were on XTRA 1150 I co-hosted a pre-game show
from a tire store in Torrance. But since it was a day game from the
east and we were on west coast time, the show started at 8:00. The
store wasn’t even open until 10:00. We sat there alone in the parking
And later that same year we did our broadcast from a car dealership in
Anaheim, again set up in the parking lot. The dealer also happened to
have his gardener there that day. All the listeners heard for a half
an hour was a deafeningly loud leaf blower.
On the other hand -- at least they're LIVE.
They're local. They're unpredictable. All the things that radio used
to be before networks, syndicated shows, voice tracking, satellites,
simulcasting, and automation took over. Give me a leaf blower over
Sean Hannity any day... although that has nothing to do with my views on
This is a re-post from four years ago.